Abkhaz Prosecutors Launch Probe into Sokhumi Unrest

Sokhumi “prosecutor’s office” today launched a probe into the unrest that erupted in the town on December 21-22 during an opposition rally against Abkhaz leader Aslan Bzhania.

Sokhumi-based Apsnypress news agency reported that prosecutors are leading the investigation under articles 206 (1), 206 (2) and 320 (1) of the Abkhaz “criminal code,” involving the organization of mass riots accompanied by pogroms and destruction of property; participation in the mass riots; use of violence or threat of violence against a “government official,” respectively.

The first charge carries a prison term of five to ten years, the second envisages imprisonment for a term of four to eight years, while the third is punishable by a fine or a prison sentence of two to five years.

According to Apsnypress prosecutors are now carrying out investigative measures to identify the suspects and establish the amount of damage caused by the unrest.

On December 21 and in the early hours of December 22, Russian-occupied Abkhazia saw seemingly the strongest protest against current leader Aslan Bzhania since he came to power in April 2020.

The protest devolved into unrest, as protesters clashed with the police for hours and attempted to break into the legislature.

The rally was called by the freshly-established People’s Patriotic Union of Abkhazia (NPSA from Russian abbreviation), a group uniting several opposition outfits that have grown dissatisfied with Bzhania’s leadership following a series of controversies, including the Sokhumi shooting incident, concerns over law enforcement, among others.

The group also protested a recent probe over a historic HPP privatization, now owned by opposition leader Kan Kvarchia, as the opposition argues the investigation is politically motivated. The opposition thus demands the dismissal of chief prosecutor Adgur Agrba.

Besides, the opposition intends to move forward in the legislature with the impeachment of Bzhania, a plan that the NPSA voiced following the negotiations with the Abkhaz leader after the unrest.

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